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The Fort Hood shooting deserves a deeper look

Help or hindrance?
Help or hindrance?
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Four killed, 13 wounded in action. These are the results of the latest skirmish between a mentally unstable individual and the innocent victims surrounding him, this time at the U.S. Army base located at Fort Hood, Texas. Many will attempt to simplify the causes of this tragedy, attributing them to mental illness and the relative ease of securing firearms. Perhaps part of the cause lies deeper when considering if the shooter was taking psychotropic drugs, when he started taking them and if he was taking them as prescribed.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a watchdog group focusing on human rights and psychiatry, has asserted for years that medical research has shown that those taking psychotropic drugs develop “violent urges to assault while taking this class of medications.” CCHR added that this violent urge to assault occurs in those with no apparent history of violence. The shooter at Fort Hood reportedly served four months in Iraq but his tour did not include direct combat. As such, it was not as though he had a recent history of experiencing the horrors and insanity of war. His life prior to the shooting will be analyzed and hopefully it will include whether or not he was taking any psychotropic or other medications.

A side-effect of many psychotropic medications including antidepressants and antipsychotics is akathisia. Akathisia is the extreme unwillingness to sit still, extreme restlessness and hair-trigger agitation and is usually characterized clinically as severe anxiety. There is also a recognized danger in not taking medications as prescribed and/or stopping them without proper medical supervision. Doing so can potentially trigger unhealthy feelings of violence against self and/or others. Another concern is the ingesting of several different drugs regardless of their class. For example, mixing an antidepressant with a prescription sleep medication can wreck havoc to an individual’s brain physiology and how he or she thinks and feels.

Socially, the issue and concern is the fact that most likely the contribution that the shooter’s medications had on his mental status will not be duly investigated. This latest shooting is tragic for the victims, their families and our nation. More attention is needed during these investigations to what and how much medication, if any, that the shooters have been prescribed. Blaming solely the mental health system and/or the ease of securing firearms is not good enough anymore.